We took a bus from Riga to Tallinn. It took about 4.5 hours but it was a double decker with food and drink service which was pretty neat. (We didn’t take advantage of the service though – we stocked up on sweet and savoury pastries from our beloved Rigensis before we left so we had plenty of food. Possibly too much. But that cherry strudel was WORTH IT.)
Like Riga, we spent four days in Tallinn (13-17 September). Tallinn’s old town is bigger than Riga’s but they definitely have their own distinct personalities. One small example of this is Riga’s old town is surrounded by a man-made moat and Tallin’s a wall dotted with those famous towers with the red pointed tops. On the whole things cost a bit more in Tallinn than they do in Riga but it’s still cheaper than most western European countries. Free wifi is extremely plentiful; almost every single place we stopped for food or a drink offered free wifi. And there are some preeetty cool places to do that in Tallinn.
Our top 10 favourites things and places in Tallinn:
- Free walking tour. You may be sensing a pattern here. ;) We don’t always kick off our stay in a city with a walking or cycling tour but they are such a great way to get your bearings and an overview of all the main sights. I tend to find the free (tips based) ones are usually more interesting than the ones with a set fee because you get more than just a standard script: personal stories, debunked legends, reliable recommendations and usually quite a lot of laughs.
- Olde Hansa. So, we did a Viking restaurant in Stockholm, why not a medieval restaurant in Tallinn? It was brilliant. Again, the staff really seemed to be enjoying themselves and the food and drink were original and exceptional. We opted for the mid-range banquet, which was quite a splurge at €40 each (plus drinks) but definitely worth it. Also, we got to taste bear (in a sausage with elk and wild boar). Highly recommended as a treat! (PS make sure you check out the toilets too! ;)
- III Draakon. The Third Dragon is a smaller eatery run by the same people as Olde Hansa, so if you can’t afford to splurge (or even if you can) you can get a taste of the same atmosphere here for a fraction of the price: all food is €1 each and all drinks are €2. There are only two things available to eat: elk soup and fluffy pastries; both delicious. Be prepared for a bit of an act from the staff – it’s all part of the experience!
- African Kitchen. Another tasty eatery and reasonably priced. African food with a good range of vegetarian dishes, and the cave-like rooms are decked out with some pretty cool decor.
- Must Puudel. A lovely and cosy cafe with lots of rooms and retro mismatched furniture. A great spot to stop for tea or coffee.
- Depeche Mode Bar. A must for any fans of the band and fun for casual listeners: non stop DM music and all the drinks are named after DM songs. It’s open late every night.
- Tallinn Backpackers’ Lahemma Day Trip. Even though we weren’t staying at the hostel that runs this tour we were able to tag along. A very fun day trip that takes you out of Tallinn to see ancient circle graves, the biggest waterfall in Estonia, an abandoned manor house, a giant bog park and a beach on the Baltic coast. We also got to have lunch at Viitna Kõrts, an excellent roadside tavern renowned amongst Estonians.
- Tallinn design shops. Skip the tourist shops where half the items were manufactured in China and support genuinely Estonian handmade items and design. You can pick up a hard copy of the black and yellow map at an info centre, view it online, or just keep an eye out for any shops marked with a black and yellow D sticker in the window.
- Russian Market. Next to the main train station is a sprawling market filled with second-hand goods; cheap (not in a good way) new goods; and some fruit, veg and meat. Sometimes recommended to visitors as a dose of “shock tourism”, I can’t say it was particularly shocking by my standards but if you are interested in picking up some Soviet era souvenirs, or perhaps some broken appliances or strange forest mushrooms that looked like the kind in cartoons you’re not supposed to eat, it’s well worth a browse.
- Raeapteek. A very old pharmacy in a corner of the Town Hall square. You can buy conventional modern medicine there as well as some (fun but somewhat gimmicky and overpriced) medieval remedies. In the second room there is a small museum of old pharmaceutical items (entry by donation).
There are plenty of other things to do in Tallinn too: visit the Kiek in de Kök tower and tunnels, climb a tower for a panoramic view of the city, visit the art museum housed within St. Nicolas’s Church, or check out any number of other museums or churches, but we enjoyed taking a break from hardcore sightseeing while we were in Tallinn.